SAP is working with a Beijing-based startup and psychology researchers to help teachers discover and treat developmental health problems in schoolchildren.

We develop the resilience to overcome the challenges we face as adults during our younger years. But according to experts, there is an alarming increase worldwide in mental health problems among people under the age of 20.

Recent studies from Europe, the U.S., and China show that as many as a fifth of all young people between 10 and 20 years old have mental health issues. The most common conditions are substance-abuse related, developmental, or behavioral. Left unrecognized or untreated, each condition can trigger a range of emotions from feeling down to anxiety, depression, or even thoughts of suicide. It’s also clear that such problems impair students’ ability to learn.


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Applying Technology to Discover Developmental Health Indicators Earlier

Family ties in China are traditionally very strong and parents are typically supportive of their children. But there are also very high academic expectations, both from home and from the educational system. Pressure to excel in school and pass university entrance exams begins very early in life. Children therefore spend many hours on schoolwork each day.

To help address these challenges, SAP Labs China and SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Shanghai are working with the Beijing-based startup MIITTECH and psychologists from Institute of Developmental Psychology at Beijing Normal University. The goal is to help teachers and parents discover developmental health problems earlier so that the special needs of primary and middle school students can be better met.

Dr. Xiaoyi Fang, a family therapist and director of the Institute of Developmental Psychology at Beijing Normal University, has devoted his career to mental health education in schools throughout China. “We currently see three main kinds of mental health problems: learning problems, emotional problems, and social relationship problems,” Dr. Fang explains. “But young people in China also face a range of problems that are relatively new, such as bullying and Internet addiction.”

Wearable Devices Measure Heart Rate, Skin Conductance, and Brainwaves

As part of a pilot project financed by China’s Ministry of Education, Dr. Fang is advising MIITTECH in its development of a solution that evaluates physiological data from schoolchildren. Input for the cloud-based solution, which is based on SAP technology, comes from three sources: online surveys, cognitive computer games, and wearable devices. The devices measure heart rate, skin conductance, and brainwaves.

Researchers such as Dr. Fang are able to access anonymized data, as required by Chinese data privacy regulations, to investigate the potential correlation between physiological phenomena and learning disorders. He is hopeful the solution will help teachers recognize and address developmental problems: “With more research I’m convinced the technology can identify developmental problems more accurately than paper-based surveys can today.”

Solution Relies on SAP HANA and SAP Cloud Platform

The MIITTECH Mental Health Platform is deployed on SAP Cloud Platform, an open platform that stores data in the in-memory SAP HANA database. “SAP is the software provider that can best help us build and roll out this type of solution,” says Tao Feng, vice president of Technology at MIITTECH. “We chose SAP HANA because it supports us in storing and analyzing large amounts of data.”

“We hope to reach 5 million students in 20 of China’s provinces by the end of 2019,” said Feng. In the next project phase, MIITECH plans to apply machine learning to improve survey data evaluation so teachers can address students’ needs more precisely.

This co-innovation project reinforces SAP’s commitment to the United Nations (UN) Global Goal #3 “Good Health and Well-Being.”